Monthly Archives: January 2010

Crisis Mapping Uganda: Combining Narratives and GIS to Study Genocide

This new peer-reviewed paper in The Professional Geographer is worth reading, especially if you’re new to crisis mapping. Authors Marguerite Madden and Amy Ross combine qualitative data of personal narratives with GIS technologies to “explore the potential for critical cartography in the study of mass atrocity.”

The authors use Northern Uganda, where millions have been affected by physical violence, as a case study. Their research yields the following conclusions:

  • Satellite images confirm the disruptive impact of forced relocation on economic activity, which resulted in greater levels of mortality than overt violence of LRA attacks.
  • Points, lines, and polygons delineated in Google Earth can be uploaded in ArcGIS to analyze the spatial patterns of huts and changes in IDP camps over time.
  • GIS data appear to have potential in documenting crimes that fall within the category of crimes against humanity.
  • Qualitative data may fail to demonstrate the extent and systematic nature of violence. GIS techniques may be able to provide the widespread and systematic criteria necessary for a conviction on crimes against humanity when individual life experiences are too difficult to document in sufficient numbers.
  • GIScience technologies appear to have less value in determining the crime of genocide. To reach a legal finding of genocide, the intent of the perpetrators must be established. GIS technologies alone, it seems, fail to provide solutions to this difficulty.

Marguerite and Amy cite the following research, which may be of interest to those looking for further reading in this area:

Kwan, M., and G. Ding. 2008. Geo-narrative: Extending geographic information systems for narrative
analysis in qualitative and mixed-method research. The Professional Geographer 60 (4): 443–65.

I wonder whether Marguerite and Amy have thought about exploring a collaboration with the EC’s Joint Research Center (JRC). The latter has developed automated change-detection methods for refugee/IDP camps, and if I remember correctly, they are looking for ways to validate their analysis using ground truthing.

Many thanks to my colleague Andrew Linke of Colorado University for sharing this paper with me.

Patrick Philippe Meier